Rakhi for Brother, Rakhi for Sister

Rakhi for Brother, Rakhi for Sister


By vishal dutta photo’s [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

When I was growing up, everyone in my family tied rakhi to each other—brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. The rakhis fastened around my wrist were a physical reminder of the care of my parents, my grandmother, my brother, and my cousins. And I would wear them until they disintegrated and fell off many months later. Of course, as I got older, I realized that this was unusual. Rakhi is usually tied by a sister or sister figure to a brother. (Vaise, I love this hilarious spoof of guys’ fear of being made a ‘brother’ in Rab ne bana di jodi.)

Recently, I talked to my mother about the origins of my family’s somewhat radical version of the holiday. Here’s what she told me.

Growing up, she and her sisters tied to their brothers and cousin-brothers. But her mom and aunt tied to all their children, both girls and boys, as well as to their husbands. When my mom started her own family, she extended this altered version by having my brother and I tie to each other. “This holiday is all about raksha, protection,” she mused to me, “and I felt—don’t both brothers and sisters need that? Both protection and blessings?”

I totally get her point. Raksha Bandhan has traditionally been about sisters offering blessings to their brothers who offer protection in exchange. Yet, each of us—regardless of our gender—needs each other’s love and support, right? And, in this day and age, can’t we move beyond these conventional ideas about gender and gender roles?

Holidays are a time to connect with family and community. They give us the familiarity of meaningful experiences and actions that we’ve performed throughout our lives. Equally importantly, they also offer an opportunity to clarify our priorities and values, and to re-think habits that we’ve inherited from our family and society. As we grow up and establish our own lives, families, and communities, both linked to and distinct from our parents before us, we can adapt the rituals and holidays that we grew up with to reflect the world we now live in.

Your Turn

Whether you be mother, father, sister, or brother—next Rakhi, take this opportunity to re-think and perhaps even change things up! What do you think about having brothers tie rakhi to sisters? Are there ways in which you and your family have adapted holidays?